April 19, 2010

Fenelus finds consistency during spring camp

MADISON - Consistency is a tough-to-come-by, frail objective for cornerbacks. It's simply a matter of fact.

Playing a game that requires absolute perfection on every down is nothing but a grind. When you're off by a matter of inches, or too slow to turn the hips or get the head around, the other team lets you know it with big plays and touchdowns.

Two inches off suddenly becomes six points on the board.

For cornerback Antonio Fenelus, consistency is where his trek to becoming a servicable corner in Wisconsin's secondary to a reliable one begins.

"Coach Dave Doren always said that was the big factor," Fenelus said towards the end of spring camp. "He knew I could go out there and make the plays, but it always would be me making a play and taking a couple of plays off. That's what I focused on this spring.

"I just want to play consistently and make plays."

All the film work and repetitions in the world could be had for Fenelus during March and April's 15-practice spring camp. It was a time for players on both the No. 1 and No. 2 units to showcase skills and dedicate themselves to the craft of improving.

With the tutelage of new secondary coach Chris Ash, Fenelus not only jumped on the right path towards consistency, but he did so without looking back.

"It's staying focused and being mentally prepared," Fenelus said. "When you go in there to watch film you see yourself make that mistake. You just know that you can't go out there and make that same mistake."

Perhaps the best thing going for Fenelus, a player that both coaches and teammates alike were impressed with during the spring, getting the chance to play a more physical, and pressing style as a corner is in his best benefit.

Ash, who recently finished his first extensive work as the secondary coach, seems to relish in aggressiveness. He has most of the corners pressing more than the team did in the past and that style fits the exact template Fenelus likes to play with.

"We're pressing almost every play now," Fenelus said. "I like it because I pressed a lot in high school. It's a big change. I'm a real physical corner so I love pressing."

Playing as part of a secondary that gave up more than its fair share of big plays a season ago, it seems as though some change was needed if the unit was going to function at its highest possible level.

Not only the change in philosophy, but the change in instant feedback the secondary gets from coach Ash, have gone a long way in developing a stable of cornerbacks that seem to be trending upwards toward a consistent, high level of play.

"He's just consistently staying on us and pushing us," Fenelus said. "He's making us strive to be the best. Coach Ash is just that coach that will stay on you no matter what, if you're making a good play or a bad play. He stays on you and asks why you made that play or why you messed up that play."

With spring camp in the rearview mirror and summer conditioning fast approaching, it seems no other cornerback in the Badger secondary made as many strides with that type of feedback than Feneulus.

As a result, Fenelus has a chance to make an impact yet again as a junior.

"When coach Kerry Cooks was leaving, I asked him to fill out a bio sheet on all the defensive backs," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "He said that Antonio was probably our toughest competitor in that group. I know that about Antonio. He's hungry. In the recruiting process I could tell he was a very dedicated young man that tried to get everything that he wants and didn't want anything handed to him.

"That's shows up in practice more so than it does in games."

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